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Boats carry an energy that transcends their material parts and also carry strong associations with the people who owned them and travelled or worked the oceans aboard them.
A recent voyage I helped with, marking the sad end of an era for those on board, brought to mind a poem I wrote not long after my father passed away.
Given my upbringing, I may have a slanted perception of the extent to which a boat can hold such strong presence and links to people but, for me, a boat encapsulates a magic and powerful bond that can’t be matched by any other material entity.
Of the many recurring dreams I have had over the years, one of the most common themes that visits me is that relating the boats my father owned – including ones I have no actual memory of other that stories told of them. Of the boats named in the poem below, only one – the Moher Maid, which became the Skipinnis Maid when dad bought her -may still exist.
In recent years, I have made various inquiries to track this boat’s whereabouts but the trail has become broken after it was sold to a fisherman in Ireland in 1999.
Fittingly, however, one of the team from Redbay Boats, whom we met in
Campbeltown last Saturday as part of the voyage mentioned above, is confident that through his connections round the Irish fishing community, he will be able to trace the Skipinnis Maid and find out where she is – if indeed she is still in existence.
The words below are as yet unfinished, but I hope those who have connections with boats and the sea will understand its sentiments.
On the Sea
On the sea and sailing
A hero of the wave
The low-lying island on your stern
The Southern Minch to brave
Then wild and wide Atlantic
With sixty miles before
The thought of rest or anchor
By St Kilda’s towering shore.
With salt sea running in your veins
And passion in your heart
You conquered life with rugged drive
Where most would fall apart
The sea dealt many cruel blows
Brought death and drowning near
Each time it did, you didn’t break
Then growled and shrugged the fear.
The Firth of Clyde to Jura
The lonely Flannan light
The western side of Harris
You fished them day and night.
The Monach Isles, the Torrans
The Tiree overfalls
Intrepid was your spirit
To live the ocean’s call.
The Rising Sun from Grimsay
The faithful Harbour Maid
The Jersey Alice Robert,
The names will never fade.
From Killybegs Ros Nuala
The Mohar Maid of Clare
These boats were part of who you are
A man whose likes are rare.
A boat is more than planks of wood
Than keel and ribs and beams.
They carry aspiration
Ambition, love and dreams.
Your hand is on my shoulder
You’re always by my side
Your wisdom guides my voyage
Through worlds of wind and tide.
Your boats they sail the sea no more
But visions still are real.
I see them steaming by the shore
You’re standing at the wheel.
In tranquil sea you’re anchored
No rocks or fire or swell –
A still and peaceful harbour
A bay where all is well.